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Frank Grillo Dishes On The Gateway And His MCU Future - Exclusive Interview

As much fun as it is to kick back and enjoy the comfort food that is the MCU, DCEU, video game adaptations, remakes, requels, and sequels, it's also enjoyable when an actual original story makes its way to the big screen. It's also exciting when those original stories expect their audience to really feast on the dense, emotional stuff.

That's exactly what we're getting with the Shea Whigham and Olivia Munn drama "The Gateway." The film focuses on the struggles of Parker (Whigham), a social worker struggling with his own (sometimes literal) ghosts and Dahlia (Munn), a mother whose bad news husband just got out of jail. It's a story about people who can't break out of their own circumstances — and when they try to, they often find themselves making mistakes, digging in deeper into debt and danger.

And in the midst of all that is the closest "The Gateway" gets to a villain: a bar-owning, urban cowboy/crime boss by the name of Duke — who just so happens to be played Frank Grillo. Grillo is one of those perpetually working actors who shows up in a little bit of everything, but most people will immediately recognize him as Brock Rumlow, aka Crossbones from MCU movies like "Captain America: Winter Soldier" and "Captain America: Civil War."

Looper sat down to talk with Grillo about what makes his "The Gateway" character Duke, how Grillo's childhood growing up in the Bronx helped him find that character — and, of course, his future in the MCU. 

Duke, an urban cowboy from the Bronx

Everybody in "The Gateway" has got a reason for why they're doing what they're doing. Parker's got his problems with his dad. Dahlia is dealing with kid and husband stuff. Everyone's got a reason for making bad choices. But Duke, he's just doing his thing. I need a backstory. Does the man have a sob story? What did you sort of figure out was happening that got him to the place he's at?

For Duke, he's a guy who is a hustler, who is a street guy, has been a survivor since he can remember. And I know guys like this. I grew up in the Bronx in New York City, and some of the cruelest guys were these street guys, who also looked cool. And they just did what they had to do with the resources that they had. You know what I mean? It's not a matter of bad or good, it's a matter of, "This is what I'm presented with. These are my options. I'm either going to starve, or I'm going to be really great at what I have to do." And I think that's what this guy is. I think he could have run his own company if he was on the right side of the wall.

It's interesting that you said that you sort of tapped into growing up the Bronx. The very first thing I thought about him was, "The man dresses ostentatiously."

Yeah. Yeah, he's gaudy. He's gaudy.

How much say did you have in that kind of stuff, and is that an aspect of the character that sort of helped you unlock and understand him?

Yeah, look, those are my choices with the director. When I read the script, it reminded me of the Scott Glenn character in "Urban Cowboy," who was kind of flashy and cool. He didn't say a whole lot, but he was in control. He stole the girl for a little while, he did his thing, and then that was that. And then he turned out to be not such a good guy. But Scott Glenn was my inspiration for how I looked. And I wanted that to be an element of this guy. I wanted the audience to go, "Wow, this guy's..." I mean, he's a flashy dude. He's taken some time to get dressed in the morning.

Brock Rumlow and Marvel's multiverse?

This is a heavy project emotionally, it is so much about people being trapped in their circumstances. Like you said, if Duke was in a different place, maybe he would have owned a company instead of being the best criminal. What was it when you sat down and read the script that kind of spoke to you? Was it that, or was it something else that grabbed you?

You know, my buddy, Shea Whigham, who's the lead of the film, he called me and said, "Going to send you a script." And I just think he's one of the most underrated actors. I think he is in the vein of a Sean Penn, one of the best actors working out there. We work with each other often, and he said, "Read this and you do what you want with it, but I would love for you to come." And that was it. That was the deciding factor for me. And he just carries the movie on his shoulders.

What you can both do with just a look is really incredible. Which is interesting because the last time I saw you, I didn't see you. I heard you this morning when I watched the new Marvel "What If...?" episode.

Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you saw the cartoon version of me.

Are you in more than one episode of that thing or what?

I think I'm in three so far. Yeah, everybody's in them. I mean, when Marvel calls, you go.

That's for sure. This whole thing sets up the multiverse. I know we're talking about other stuff, but it's hard not to ask: Everybody's getting new versions of characters. What's the over-under on seeing you again in the live-action flesh in that world?

You know, I know they talked about it for a minute. I just don't know that Crossbones is enough to carry his own world. But I'd say certainly we'd be down. I was just talking to [Anthony] Mackie because I was in Target with my kids, and there's another big Mackie as Captain America. And I'm like, "You know what? I got to get back into this. This is not right. That Mackie is Captain America, and I have to buy his doll." So I want time to come on. Kevin Feige, get me back in the world.

"The Gateway" will be available in select theaters, on Apple TV and everywhere you rent movies on September 3, and available on Blu-ray and DVD on September 7.